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Hollywood Bowl BristolIf you think that ten pin bowling is a competitive sport just to be played by professionals then think again. It is a fun evening out for all the family and is exciting for both professionals and amateurs. I started out playing now and then for fun and since the summer of 1999 have tried my hand at league bowling but I do not like to take it quite as seriously as the real professionals do - and lately I have stopped playing in leagues because I wasn't really all that good but still enjoy the odd friendly games with mates! I did like the competition but also it was great to have fun at the same time. I have not had any lessons in bowling and my average score is not as high as I might like but I still have fun and it doesn't matter if you win or lose - although I find that some teams tend to take it so seriously that they get big heads when they win and are REALLY sore losers if things don't go their way! Now and then a league player will get the maximum score of 300, most often get over 200 - I tend to average between 140-150 but it means I get quite a high handicap, which is good - and up until December 2000 I had yet to get a score over 200. Then I had a good week, on the 8th of December I managed to get a score of 207 during practice, which I was happy about and then, lo and behold, on the 10th I took part in a local tournament called King Of The Hill, and I managed to come 2nd in that which was truly amazing and also got my highest scratch score to date of  212. Below is the printed score sheet so you can see how I got that score, plus the winners details pinned on the noticeboard, and I have also been given a pin for achieving over 175 in a league match - see scan on left. For those who are not sure about how the scoring works, the X's on the sheet denote STRIKES and the /'s denote SPARES. Briefly in each frame you bowl upto 2 balls at the pins, if you knock them all down first time it is a STRIKE, but if you leave some standing and knock those down on the second ball it is a SPARE. You can see that I got a spare in the first frame (knocking 9 down first, then the remaining 1 pin), then got 3 strikes in a row (known as a "turkey"), then another spare (7pins, then the remaining 3 pins) and so on... You will see that in the 10th frame there is the possibility to bowl 3 balls - the third being used when a strike or spare is acheived in the first two of the frame. As for the scoring involved - I won't explain it here but you can visit another website - see links below for detailed scoring methods. The maximum score of 300 is achieved with strikes in every frame (3 strikes in the last).

my scorecard
winners of King of The Hill

The picture at top right is of the front entrance to the Hollywood Bowl at Avonmeads in Bristol - opposite the Showcase cinema complex - this is where I play bowling most of the time (with my bowling pals Pete, Gary and sometimes Shane - who you may recall are also my Chamonix and Disneyland Paris pals - if you have visited those sections!). We all play in leagues organised at the Hollywood Bowl by a chap called Steve Bolton who also runs the small bowling shop located inside. Bowling is Steve's passion and he deals with all aspects of the game - supplying and drilling bowling balls to fit your hand perfectly - he supplies accessories for the game and even coaches budding bowlers on how to bowl properly - he is a very pleasant chap to do business with.

inside the Hollywood BowlHollywood Bowl is a chain of bowling centres across the UK, there are other chains of bowling centres - including Superbowl, Megabowl and Bowlplex - Bristol has 3 bowling centres around the city - as well as playing at Hollywood Bowl we have also started to play in a league in the new Bowlplex site in Longwell Green, Bristol. The picture on the left is of the main reception desk at the Avonmeads Hollywood Bowl.
All bowling centres also have bars to purchase drinks, and games areas with the latest video games - some even have added attractions - such as mini golfing games - planty to keep the kids occupied - and then of course there is bowling itself which is enjoyed by all ages ranges - you find kids even as young as 3 or 4 being helped by parents to lauch the ball down a special ramp, and they certainly like it when the pins are knocked down - hooked at an early age.
Ten pin bowling has increased in popularity over the past decade or two with the introduction of automatic bowling systems that keep score and reset the pins. In the old days scorekeeping was done with pen and paper which can be quite mindboggling to the amateur bowler and pinsetting was done manually by hand - thus the sport was only really popular with the professional league bowlers of the time - plus there weren't very many bowling centres in the UK so sometime people had to travel long distances to enjoy a game of bowling which sort of took the fun out of the game. Now bowling centres are sprouting up all over the UK so there is bound to be one near you.

Steve Bolton in actionleague bowlersThe two pictures here show league action at the Hollywood Bowl. you can see that teams play in unique colured shirts and are oftened embroidered with the names of sponsors. As I have said some of these teams like to take the sport very seriously indeed and there is a lot more to the game than you may think. For example, to play in sanctioned leagues it is necessary to be a member of the BTBA (British Tenpin Bowling Association) and the rules have to be adhered to - an example is if the ball goes into the gutter but manages to bounce out again and knock a pin down it doesn't count and the score has to be altered. League bowlers use their own bowling balls and bowling accessories, as opposed to the "house balls" and shoes for the general public - bowling balls come in a range of weights and finger hole sizes so everyone should be able to find one that fits their hand - but league bowlers have their hand and finger span measured and then the finger holes are drilled specially so it fits perfectly. Also wrist supports can be used as quite a bit of strain can be put on the wrist and arm when bowling - these vary from the simple to the "full metal" type which even have adjustable sections to assist in the aim of the ball - serious stuff!
bowling lanes Chamonix bowl 1Other accessories include specialised bowling shoes with soles that allow the shoes to slide on the wooden approach; powder to reduce the slide if it is too much and to improve finger grips; cleaning liquids to get oily marks and grime off of bowling balls; bags and cases to carry bowling balls because professionals always have more than one bowling ball when they play - generally a main ball and what is known as a "spares" ball for dealing with certain situations. Generally amateurs and fun bowlers just bowl straight and hope they knock the pins down but if you watch professionals you will see that a certain amount of spin is placed on the ball which makes the ball "hook" into the pins at the "pocket" and produces some spectacular strikes - when all the pins are knocked down.

Chamonix Bowl 2Some bowling centres often put on "moonlight" bowling evenings where the normal lights go out and flourescent lights light up the pins and lanes accompanied with disco music and lights - it is quite spectacular and adds an unusual twist to a normal game of bowling. The picture on the left and above were taken at Chamonix's Bowling Pub.
I managed to get an old pin signed by the staff at Chamonix and brought it home as a souvenir - pictures of it can be seen at the bottom of this page.

There is so much more to tell about bowling - especially when it comes to competitive league bowling and how the scoring system works so rather than mention it all it here why not visit some of the websites I have links to below.
If you have not been ten pin bowling before why not give it a go - you may find you have a great time - it is such a gratifying feeling to see all the pins fall down. Look up your local bowling alley soon and play - it's fun!

Below are some other pictures to do with bowling....
hover mouse pointer over pic for description.


Friend Pete with some bird he picked up... erm.. I mean Caroline (another league player who is a good laugh!!!)Gary and Pete happily bowling - Gary's highest score is 259 don't ya know!
This is the "Tai-Chi" limited edition bowling ball I useAnother view of my Tai-Chi bowling ball
The AMF bowling shoes I wear when playing - they look like trainers!I use a wrist support and liner to prevent injury to my wrist and arm
What the support looks like being wornThis is the old bowling pin souvenir from the bowling centre in Chamonix, France
Another view of the bowling pin from Chamonix


Links to Ten Pin Bowling on the WWW (with UK and worldwide bowling links) (includes scoring method)


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